Withdrawal Agreement and Transition for UK citizens in Germany

The transition timetable

With a large Tory majority, the UK Parliament passed the October 2019 version of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) in January 2020 and it was also ratified by the European Parliament. The UK then formally left the EU on 31st January 2020. From 1st February 2020, the WA came into force. The Agreement provides for a transition period to run from 1st February 2020 until 31st December 2020. It also contains an article (Article 132) which would allow an extension of 1 or 2 years – provided that a request were made by end of June 2020.

Citizens’ rights and the WA

The citizens’ rights section of the WA remained almost entirely unchanged from the earlier version negotiated by Theresa May, and it is this part of the Agreement that covers the future legal rights of British people who are legally resident in an EU27 country on the last day of the transition period (however long that turns out to be). The Agreement is EU wide and, although each EU27 country will institute its own procedures for things like residence cards etc, each individual EU country must respect the WA’s set out provisions.

Under the WA, most of our rights remain wholly unchanged until the end of the transition period, so at least until 31st December, 2020. This includes freedom of movement meaning it is still possible for people to move freely from the UK to the EU, or within the EU during that period. We did however lose the right to stand and vote in local and European elections from Brexit day, i.e. as of 1st February 2020.

**What’s important to note is that now that the Withdrawal Agreement is in force, we will be covered by it for our lifetimes whatever happens with future negotiations.  So please don’t think that the rights the WA provides for us are temporary – they are not; if you are legally resident in an EU country at the end of the transition period these rights will cover you for your lifetime.

Citizens’ rights in the WA

Crucially, the WA ensures not only the right to live and work in the country of residence at the end of the transition period, but also covers areas such as S1 healthcare rights, together with aggregation and uprating of pensions.   The WA agreement also says we will be able to leave our host country for up to 5 years without losing our right to return.

The WA does not cover everything, however.

For excellent readable summaries of what is and is not included in the WA, please look at the guides produced by British in Europe  https://britishineurope.org/

Dual citizenship in Germany

For those of us in Germany who meet the conditions to apply for German citizenship during the transition period i.e. up to 31st December 2020, there is an additional benefit. The German government passed a law which entitles us, if we meet the conditions and apply for German citizenship during that time, to keep our UK citizenship as well.  This is normally only an option for EU citizens. For more information: Applying for German citizenship

And finally, for the avoidance of any doubt or confusion here are 3 important points:

  1. The media doesn’t always help by using interchangeable terms for things that are quite separate. For example, reference is often made to a ‘deal’ to refer to the trade deal that still has to be struck during the transition period, and the terms ‘no deal’ and ‘crashing out’ to a situation where no trade deal can be agreed. Confusingly, these are the very same terms that the media previously used to denote the UK leaving without a Withdrawal Agreement, but the meaning is very different. Now that the Withdrawal Agreement has become law our future rights contained within it are guaranteed whatever happens with the future trade deal. So a failure to conclude a trade deal might be a ‘no deal’ situation for the UK, but not for British citizens living in the EU. This is important to be clear about and is still sometimes the subject of much confusion and concern.
  2. In the Bill that the UK Parliament passed in January 2020, the Conservative government inserted a clause barring any extension to the Withdrawal Agreement’s transition period beyond 31st December 2020. The WA contains an article (Article 132) allowing an extension of 1 or 2 years to the transition period if it’s requested by July 2020. Clause 132 remains in the WA even though Johnson’s Bill passed with the proposed amendment barring an extension, which means that the UK government could have asked to extend the transition period at any point up to 30th June 2020 by passing a new bit of legislation. However, the British government did not do that and did not request an  extension so as things currently stand, transition will end on 31st DEcember, 2020.
  3. Since the WA is now law, the ‘no deal’ legislation already passed in each of the EU27 countries is now defunct, and we are now waiting for each country to publish details of how it intends to implement the WA for its British residents. For the latest status in Germany, please see here: Latest on UK in Germany Post-Transition Status

Further information sources:

Become a member of British in Germany e.V. here for only 15 Euros a year to support BiG’s advocacy and campaigning work and  to get the latest up to date information on how Brexit will impact the lives of UK citizens living in Germany.

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